What Should I Wear to a Renaissance Festival?

Renaissance Festival Garb
Renaissance Festival Garb. Rain Blanken

"I am going to a renaissance festival next weekend, but I'm not sure what to wear. Does my costume have to exactly fit the period? Can I wear my Star Trek costume just for fun?"

What to Wear

When attending a renaissance festival, you should wear garb that is both historically correct and pertains to the persona you have chosen. Not everyone dresses up, you can wear street clothes if you like, but playing the part makes the experience worth the ticket price!

Persona: Are you a lady in waiting? A peasant wench? Dress according to how much money you imagine your 'character' would have to spend on clothes. Rich fabrics were only available to nobility, while drab neutral colors belonged to peasants. Here are some ideas.

Historically accurate: There are a couple of attitudes on this one. Some people will say to avoid dressing like a Harry Potter character or a gothic vampire. Children can get away with dressing like fairies and the like, but the real ren-faire buffs will tell you that you should probably go for something more 16th century.

  • Absolute no-no's for historical accuracy: No sneakers with skirts, avoid wristwatches, and sunglasses. For ideas, check out this medieval clothing gallery.
  • Go the other way entirely. I've seen people attend Ren Faire as officers from the USS Enterprise, or even as Dr. Who. If you're having fun, then you're doing it right!

    The other camp of people will tell you to dress however you darn well please! I am of this attitude because ultimately a renaissance festival is a place to let go and have fun.

    Wear a Nice Attitude: If your goal is to buy or create period costumes to achieve total historical accuracy, fine. But let's let everyone else have a good time, too.

    Follow a 'No Snarking' rule. If someone hasn't asked you if their costume is historically accurate, keep the condescending pointers to yourself. If a fellow patron actually asks you for advice, give them some helpful constructive criticism.

    Not Like a Desperate Wench: Remember that bodices and corsets are meant to leave something to the imagination. Cleavage is good fun, but don't hike your corset more than halfway unless you want to risk some spillage! Skirts should be long with boots or slippers; not high heels. You wouldn't want to walk around the festival grounds in heels, anyway.

    Don't Forget the Pirates! Remember, girls can be pirates, too. If you don't like the idea of going wench, wear a pair of cotton pants with a blouse. Loop a long scarf through the pants and wear as a belt.

    Make it Yourself and Save:
    Medieval dresses and gowns can cost you a king's ransom. Avoid the price tag with these simple costume how-tos:

    • How-to Princess Costume
    • How-to Women's Wench or Maiden Costume